USDA assists hurricane victims

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture is coordinating with states and partner organizations to provide disaster nutrition assistance to individuals in 13 states affected by Hurricane Sandy.

In New York, the USDA said it is working with the state, the Food Bank of New York City, and partner agencies to distribute approximately 1.1 million lbs. of food. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the USDA worked late last week with the State of New Jersey and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey to coordinate the delivery of 39,000 lbs. of food to support congregate feeding efforts. The food bank will combine USDA foods with existing food stocks to produce 15,000 meals per day for 5 to 7 days to be distributed in cooperation with the Red Cross and Salvation Army at shelters.

Additionally, the USDA said it is working closely with states and industry partners in affected states to remind SNAP retailers of the procedure for manually processing SNAP transactions during power outages, in order to ensure that SNAP recipients living in areas affected by power outages continue to have access to food.

In certain areas in New York, the USDA has granted a waiver to allow SNAP recipients to purchase hot foods using SNAP benefits. Under normal circumstances, SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase hot, ready-to-eat foods. The USDA also has granted the waiver to accommodate individuals that have lost homes, are affected by power outages, or are otherwise unable to prepare food due to damage caused by the hurricane.

The USDA has approved requests from the states of Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and Virginia to issue automatic, mass replacements of benefits to SNAP households in certain areas affected by the hurricane. The agency also has approved requests from the states of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia to extend the time SNAP recipients have to report loss of food purchased using SNAP benefits and to request replacement benefits.

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